But here’s the punch line: I didn’t appreciate any of that while I was there. Scratch me and you’ll find a frustrated visionary. We visionaries conjure up pristine futures and, if we’re not careful, contrast them with the exasperating present. We pout. We annoy everyone else and we blind ourselves to this morning’s blessings. I couldn’t see the city’s pleasures and opportunities through the fog of my utopian dreams.
Tag Archives: The Alternative Mainstream
September 18, 2011
President Obama read this psalm in New York on the 9-11 tenth anniversary. Hear the words and then replay them. They’re good words. We might even want to take them seriously.
September 11, 2011
’m remembering the descent into the surreal. Radio reports told of crashing planes and dropping towers, of Pentagon flames and building evacuations, of stranded passengers in isolated airports – and, behind it all, there was the leering face of a would-be Messiah-like figure, invoking religion, polluting its name, and wrapping faith in veils of smoke and fireballs. I’m remembering my own rage, my own lust for revenge, and my own recovery. I remember reconciling two streams of thinking and emerging wiser.
As usual, many fingers have wagged during this commemorative week: “We should have done this; we should have done that …” I’ll spare us that and simply reflect: How should a follower of Christ respond to such events? What is the role of a people with dual citizenship in Heaven, which bonds us to those of many nationalities, and an Earthly country? How do we work through our understandable emotions in light of the Gospel? How does our heavenly citizenship play out in in our national citizenship?
August 23, 2011
So impassioned, so compelling, and so misguided: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz has called for a nation-wide strike against politicians. He’d have us speak the only language they know, money. We would withhold all donations from each and every one until they honestly negotiated, compromised, and resolved their conflicts. Our country will work once more.
How enthralling. I’m almost ready to fold my checkbook – but then I remember the call’s three fatal assumptions: First, believe it or not, not all politicians are equally culpable for the gridlock. Remember the “gang of six” and their noble compromise attempt as the debt ceiling approached? What about those yielding their (reasonable) positions on moderate tax hikes for the rich? And think of Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, the last remaining Republican moderates. Do we abandon them as they guard their party’s historic turf? Even Independents and Democrats can wish them well.
July 18, 2011
Run – do not walk, but run with blistering, heart-attack speed – to the mall’s Rock-em Sock-’em Religious Magazine Store and pick up the latest copy of Christianity Today. There’s hope. Gobs of it. Sanity is making a come-back even amid the shrill cry of the shrinking religious right (“I’m melting!”).
First is the cover story profiling the new Focus on the Family boss. Read the tag line: “Why Jim Daly doesn’t care whether you know who he is or whom he supports for president.” Say whuh? The organization is returning to its original purpose and calling: Nurturing godly families and helping children. No one says Focus employees will be wearing Che Guevara T-shirts (although the old formal dress code has dropped to “business casual”), but at least they won’t implicitly christen the GOP as “God’s Own Party.” Daly’s own compelling personal saga of alcoholic parents and foster-care abuse gives him empathy for the downtrodden.
July 16, 2011
Michael F. Bird has stolen the knife, waved a magic wand, transformed it into a feather, and twisted it. Bombshells have become cotton candy and grenades explode flower petals. I feel the love.
Some background: D.A. Carson and N.T. Wright have lobbed donnish salvos across the Great Pond. Carson, a New Testament professor at Illinois’ Trinity Evangelical Seminary and a lion of the ever-vigilant Neo-Reformed Movement, sniped at Wright when reviewing The Future of Justification by John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), which questioned Wright’s interpretation of the Apostle Paul: “John Piper will not allow believers to put their trust in anyone or anything other than the crucified and resurrected Savior.” Wright, a British Anglican cleric and scholar, took umbrage in his weighty reply, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2009): “The implicit charge that the Pauline theology I have articulated might lead people to put their trust in ‘anyone or anything other than the crucified and resurrected Savior’ … is seriously misleading.”
June 10, 2011
The Roman Catholic bishop of Spokane issued a thoughtful ten-point response to the so-called “John Jay Report,” formally entitled, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, and released in May by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The Most Reverend Blase Cupich listed several needs: Rigorous seminary candidate screening; revisal of the relevant child-protection charter; annual professional clerical education; parishioner education; re-emphasis of proper interpersonal boundaries, recognition of the problem’s extent; monitoring; intent listening and quick response; perspective; and ridding the church of clericalism.
It’s all good, which isn’t surprising. Most clerics were sickened that some used their collars to prey on kids.
My request: Tell us precisely that.
May 22, 2011
This weekend was the weekend of the un-moment, the weekend of the non-event event, the weekend in which television hosts and writers frazzled themselves over a looming non-incident everyone knew would not occur – and, when it did not happen, bloggers blogged about how a predominantly silent clique should think twice before it fanned the flames of panic again. Never have so many talk-headed so much for so long about something they all knew was nothing.
I speak, of course, of Harold Camping’s prediction that the so-called “rapture” would sweep born-again Christians off the Earth and into the sky on May 21. I write this on May 22 – and I’m totally non-surprised to be here a day after my un-disappointment. What’s more, I preached at my church of mostly born-again Christians this morning. Almost all were there (a few had the sniffles; a couple temporary heathens played hooky; no one was in the clouds). We all knew Brother Camping was the equivalent of the bearded doom-and-gloom guy with the sandwich board in LA’s Griffith Park – or the poor soul who bundled up in winter clothing in August and marched the city streets where I once lived, screaming, “REEEEEPENT! THE LAWD IS COM-ING!” We’re aware of Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” and, like many evangelical Christians, we doubt all this talk of the “pre-tribulation rapture.” We think Left Behind should be left behind.
May 20, 2011
Don’t stop me. I’m doing it. I’m throwing every stitch of clothing into a pack, including those wool socks for polar weather and the straw hat to fend off Amazon bugs. I’m on a world-wide quest, an expedition, a voyage, a mission. I will find the great reset button in the sky and I will press it. Brace yourself for a sudden jolt and then bathe in Wonderland’s warmth: Closeted skeletons will vanish and doors will creak open and formerly crazy aunts will roam free. Best of all, cardinals and bishops won’t listen to attorneys any more. They’ll remember the Church is strongest when it embraces weakness and they’ll follow their Lord to the cross, not their lawyers to the negotiating table.
I must find the button because things are now askew. On the one hand, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops rang eloquent in a May 5th letter in which they called budget-debating senators to remember the poor; on the other, fallout in the wake of recent indictments involving the Philadelphia archdiocese suggest magisterium still doesn’t get it. They’ve stalled. They’ve withheld information from its own sexual-abuse review board. They’ve tarnished the church’s reputation while skating the legal ice, naïve of their own harm and supplying fodder for their many opponents. Just to confuse things even more, a
May 8, 2011
A question: Do three fingers still point back at me when I wag at society’s I-told-you-so finger-waggers? We hear their scolds when they crawl from the think-tank lair in times of strife and doubt, spewing reprimands. They know nothing of the Freudian id’s dark elation. All borders are black lines; all days are bright; there is no moral murk and fog. Their memories are cleansed of New York’s volcano-like plumes, which I saw from the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Garden State Parkway on September 11, 2001, and they feel no ambivalence over the death of a mass murderer and a self-made symbol. Even worse, they’re blind to their own insensitivity as they argue for compassion. They haul out their favorite Bible verses (Proverbs 24:17: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”), but neglect Scripture’s ambivalence (Proverbs 11:10: “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.”). Their lack of empathy swallows the merits of their arguments.